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The Black Hole

   

The Black Hole (1979), starring Maximilian Schell, Robert Forster, Roddy McDowall, Anthony Perkins, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine, Joseph Bottoms

In The Black Hole, a ship of space explorers make an amazing discovery. They find a ship presumed lost, 20 years ago. It’s safely hovering on the edge of a black hole – somehow. And the scientist in charge plans to go through it. But what happened to the crew?

Review

Someone has described The Black Hole is a very well done bad movie. And I can’t disagree with that. It’s absolutely beautiful to watch. The lost ship, the Nostromo, looks like a cathedral in space. It’s absolutely gorgeous.

The acting is good, the science is … Sort of accurate, when it fits the script. The characters are engaging. The end is extremely weird. The middle is very good, as is the unravelling of the mystery of what happened to the crew.

Cast

  • Maximilian Schell (John Carpenter’s Vampires) … Dr. Hans Reinhardt. The scientist, in charge of the “lost” station, that’s been safely orbiting the black hole. He claims that the human crew has left, and so he’s created a crew of humanoid robots. But …
  • Anthony Perkins (Psycho) … Dr. Alex Durant. A physicist, who clearly looks up to Reinhardt. And that’s a fatal flaw …
  • Robert Forster (Last Man Standing) … Captain Dan Holland. The leader of the expedition, to find the missing ship after many years. They barely survive their initial encounter with the black hole. So, they dock with the Nostromo for repairs. And find far more than they expected.
  • Joseph Bottoms (Holocaust) … Lieutenant Charles Pizer. The younger crew member. His relationship and interactions with Vincent are priceless.
  • Yvette Mimieux (The Time Machine) … Dr. Kate McCrae. Crew member who has an unspecified telepathic interface with Vincent. Her father was part of the crew of the Nostromo when it disappeared 20 years before. And she hopes to find out what happened.
  • Ernest Borgnine (Marty) … Harry Booth. A reporter, who’s had interactions with Reinhardt before. He doesn’t like him. And, at his core, his primary motivation is self-preservation. Which the audience sees towards the end.
  • Tom McLoughlin … Captain S.T.A.R. Dr. Reinhard’s “enforcer” on board the ship. Despite being mute, he’s clearly annoyed when V.I.N.C.E.N.T. beats him in target practice.
  • Roddy McDowall (Planet of the Apes, Fright Night) … V.I.N.CENT. (voice). One of the best reasons to watch the movie. An AI robot, essential to the crew. With a good relationship with both Kate and Pizer.
  • Gary Nelson … Drone with Mask Removed. Nothing can be said without revealing the secret, so I won’t.
  • Slim Pickens (The Swarm) … B.O.B. (voice). The older model of robot on the Nostromo. The only surviving model, who’s clearly been physically abused.

Editorial review of The Black Hole courtesy of Amazon.com

Doctors Durant and Reinhardt on the bridge of the Nostromo in "The Black Hole"

Disney’s foray into big-budget science fiction, close on the heels of Star Wars, had some of the most impressive special effects to grace theater screens in the 1970s. Graced by handsome production design–most notably a glass and latticework interstellar craft that looks like a battleship crossed with a modern skyscraper–The Black Hole is in many ways the most beautiful science fiction film of its era.

Unfortunately, the graceful and gorgeous picture is jarred by dialogue that wouldn’t pass muster in a comic book and a silly conclusion that plays like a murky, dime-store knockoff of 2001. Too bad, because the visual realization of the film is a veritable haunted house of futuristic phenomena, from the cloaked zombie-like drones shuffling through corridors to the devilish, crimson robot Maximillian, the strong arm of the mad scientist played by Maximilian Schell (a kind of wild man Captain Nemo with an even more ruthless temperament). Only the way-too-cute robot V.I.N.CENT (voiced by Roddy McDowall), a merchandising gimmick that looks like a Fisher-Price toy, mars the technological landscape.

Robert Forster is the quietly authoritative captain of an exploration ship that stumbles across the seemingly derelict ship, and Anthony Perkins, Yvette Mimieux, Ernest Borgnine, and Joseph Bottoms fill out his crew. This is one case of a triumph of art direction and special effects over story–it’s worth sitting through it to see the magnificent scene of the fireball rolling through the ship’s enormous hull alone. The rest is just atmospheric gravy. —Sean Axmaker

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